Philadelphia Criminal Lawyer
Arrested in PA? Get an Aggressive Attorney to Fight For Your Rights!
If you've been accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, you must be wondering what to do next. What could happen to me? Do I need a lawyer, and how do I find one?
When you walk into the court room and the clerk reads the case number and announces that it's the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. You. I can only imagine that you feel alone and scared.
We know this is a difficult time for you. But there is hope, and there is help.
We fight for our clients who are facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania. Everyday, for people just like you. Whether you are facing a serious felony charge or a misdemeanor or summary offense, it is something that can seriously impact the rest of your life.
So, for the answers you need, please call our Pennsylvania law offices now for your free criminal defense consultation. By calling us at 215-240-7565, you can get some free advice on your situation, and find out what an experienced criminal defense lawyer can do for you, with no obligation.
Criminal Law in general
Criminal law refers to the area of law that involves the government or state prosecuting an individual for violating a public law. Criminal law also called penal law is established by local, state, and federal governments. Crimes fall into three basic categories:
- Felony – serious crimes like robbery, kidnapping rape and murder punishable by up to a year or more in prison
- Misdemeanor - less serious crime like petty theft, simple assault, public intoxication, trespass and indecent exposure, misdemeanors are punishable by fines, up to one year in prison and community service
- Regulatory crime or Infractions– least serious crimes, violation of an administrative regulation, examples are exceeding the speed limit and hunting with an expired hunters license, usually not punishable by incarceration, typically punishable by fine only
In a criminal case the prosecutor, a government lawyer also called district attorney or state’s attorney, initiates a criminal case in the hopes of bringing an offender to justice. The victim of the crime has no say in whether the prosecutor brings a case against the alleged criminal. However in almost all criminal cases the alleged criminal has the right to be tried before a jury and the prosecutor must prove the criminal is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Stages of a criminal case:
- Arrest – a criminal case begins when a police officer places a person under arrest this can occur from the officer witnessing a crime, having probable cause that a crime has been committed or from an officer obtaining an arrest warrant to bring a person into custody. During an arrest the suspect is read his or her Miranda rights, searched and driven to jail for booking.
- Booking or Processing – during booking typically an officer takes down the suspects personal information, photographs and fingerprints the suspect, removes all personal effects from the suspect and writes down a detailed report of the alleged crime. The suspect is then placed in a holding cell. During the booking process the criminal is allowed one phone call.
- Bail – after booking the suspect may be granted bail. Bail is a payment of money that facilitates the suspects release from custody in exchange for a promise to appear for all court proceedings. A suspect may also be released on his or her “own recognizance” meaning that they need not post bail but must promise in writing to appear for all court appearances.
- Arraignment – the arraignment is the suspect’s first appearance before a criminal judge. Typically the judge will read the charges filed against the suspect as presented in the criminal complaint and the suspect will plead "guilty," "not guilty" or "no contest" to those charges. The defendant’s bail will be reviewed by the judge and further court proceedings will be determined.
- Preliminary hearing – shortly after the arraignment the defendant appears for a preliminary hearing. During this hearing the prosecution and the defense present evidence about the crime to the judge and the judge determines if there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trail. In some states a preliminary hearing is held only if the defendant is accused of committing a felony. In some states the defendant does not appear for a preliminary hearing rather the defendant appears before a grand jury, which is a jury of citizens that decides whether, based on the prosecution’s evidence, the case should proceed to trial.
- Pretrial motions – used by the prosecution and the defense to determine what evidence and testimony will be presented at trial.
- Trial – in a criminal trial the prosecution bears the responsibility of proving the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury or judge decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty after listening to the prosecution and the defense argue their case.
- Sentencing – after a defendant is convicted of a crime the court will determine the appropriate punishment for the crime. In determining a just punishment the court will evaluate the severity of the crime, the remorse of the defendant and the criminal history of the defendant.
- Appeal – If the defendant feels that the court has erred in the conviction or sentencing of the defendant, they can request that their case be reviewed by a higher court.